Marvel's current big event King in Black is reaching its symbiotic black tendrils across the Marvel line, and it's also going back in time to touch upon Marvel's first hero, Namor.
In King in Black: Namor, writer Kurt Busiek is telling a story of Namor in the '30s before he was the salty anti-hero we know of now, and more of an extra-salty teen. In the five-issue series, he'll be revealing a new set of Atlantean villains called the Black Tide which will play a role in the larger King in Black event going on now.
Working as sort of a 'lost story' in the Marvel mythos, King in Black: Namor is drawn by Benjamin Dewey, with modern-day framing sequences by Jonas Scharf.
Newsarama spoke with Busiek ahead of King in Black: Namor #1's debut on Wednesday, and discussed introducing new villains to Marvel's mythos, this series' connection to the main King in Black event, and if Busiek would like to work on more Namor stories in the future.
Newsarama: Kurt, how did this King in Black: Namor limited series come about? Did you pitch a Namor story to Marvel or did Marvel contact you?
Kurt Busiek: [Marvel Comics' executive editor] Tom Brevoort called me. He thought I might have some time, since The Marvels had been put temporarily on hold during the pandemic (but it's still on the way, folks!), and that I might like the opportunity here.
Due to King in Black, Marvel had a need for some very dangerous Atlantean villains, and what with one thing and another, they didn't want to use any of the established ones. So, they wanted to establish some new Namor foes, and salt them back into Namor history, a long way back.
Tom asked me if I'd be willing to create them, and I thought that sounded like a blast. So, we talked it over and I threw a bunch of ideas at Tom, and we got the ball rolling.
Nrama: What was it like reuniting with Ben Dewey? You two worked together on Autumnlands: Tooth and Claw, but how did you re-connect for this project?
Busiek: I'd been working with Ben just recently, on the Marvels Snapshots: Fantastic Four one-shot, which Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer wrote and I curated, and we've been working toward getting our Autumnlands series going again. I thought Ben would be terrific for this series — he's got a great design sense, and he's absolutely wonderful at drawing animals, and that definitely includes aquatic animals.
So, I suggested him to Tom, and Tom liked the idea. And luckily, Ben was available, so he started in on character designs, and off we went!
Nrama: How connected will this Namor limited series be to the main event?
Busiek: Well, the bulk of the story takes place long before King in Black, back in the '30s when Namor's still a teenager. But there are scenes set in the present day, providing a framing sequence to the whole thing — Jonas Scharf is drawing those — and they connect pretty directly to King In Black.
We're telling the origin story of characters who appear in the crossover, and there are scenes set during and after the crossover, so it's a pretty firm connection there.
But it's pretty carefully planned out so our series doesn't spoil the events of King in Black, and the main event won't spoil our series either. And once our book is collected on its own, it'll read fine as a self-contained story. So, whatever that adds up to, that's how connected we are.
Nrama: What was it like exploring Namor's younger years? What made you want to tackle this side of the character?
Busiek: That's where the story went, pretty much. We needed to establish these new characters set in the past, so right off the bat, we knew we were going to be dealing with the past. And it made sense to set it before Namor debuted in Marvel Comics #1, which meant he was going to be pretty young.
That said, it was fun to play with — I knew as soon as we started talking about those days that we had to have Dorma in it. And I wanted to see a young Attuma, too, to set him up before he ever met Namor in the comics.
But also, as Tom pointed out, we're pretty used to seeing Namor as an adult, as a very established, set-in-his-ways guy, and the chance to go back to when he was less certain, less experienced, and deal with a younger Namor, who's still figuring out who he is, that was a treat.
Marvel had just done a Bill Everett '40s/'50s Namor omnibus, too, which had a bunch of 'Namor as a teen' stories, too, so it was fun to dive into those for some inspiration.
Nrama: What will these adventures reveal about the larger Marvel universe history?
Busiek: It'll reveal some stuff you didn't know before, but I don't want to tell you ahead of time — it'll be more fun if you read it!
Suffice it to say that you'll learn more about the undersea world than you knew before, but you'll also see glimpses of some surface-history events, too, featuring some characters people might not expect — and even some relatives of characters who would be important to Marvel history much later. But they'll work better if I don't tell you.
Nrama: What can you tell us about Namor's supporting characters (Lady Dorma of Atlantis, the outsider Attuma, and The Swift Riders)? How will they be affected by the event?
Busiek: They will be affected dramatically! I think people will be surprised — Dorma's been dead since the Silver Age, and Attuma's been one of Namor's greatest foes since his introduction, but you'll learn more about both of them in this story, and they'll be set up to affect Namor and the Marvel Universe's future in some pretty interesting ways, I think.
As for the Swift Riders, it was a lot of fun creating them, and playing with the idea of what Namor's youthful heroes were like and how they inspired him. But they go through some stuff...
Nrama: What do you think Namor fans will enjoy the most about this tie-in?
Busiek: I'd hate to try to predict. I hope they enjoy getting to see a Namor in his more formative years, and the interaction between him, Dorma, and Attuma.
But I think they're going to love the art, and I hope they'll like seeing a different side of Atlantis, and the new characters and all.
Nrama: And what do you enjoy about writing Namor and Atlantis as a whole?
Busiek: Aside from liking the characters — I've been a fan of Namor since I first saw him — I like writing a story set in a different world. Most of this series is set before Namor ever saw human society, so we're playing with the undersea world. And getting to see different aspects of that, to do bits of worldbuilding here and there, has been a lot of fun.
Nrama: Would you like to write more Namor stories following King In Black?
Busiek: As I said, I like the character a lot. And he'll be turning up in The Marvels, at least a little, so I'll be writing him some very shortly. A full-on Namor project? Only time will tell…
Read our review of King in Black #1.